Author Archives: Frank J. Oteri

About Frank J. Oteri

Frank J. Oteri, New Music USA's Composer Advocate and the Senior Editor of NewMusicBox, is an outspoken crusader for new music and the breaking down of barriers between genres. Frank’s own musical compositions reconcile structural concepts from minimalism and serialism and frequently explore microtonality.

Fame is Manufactured

Rather than complaining about the lack of attention the music we care about is getting in the media, we need to create media ourselves.

Where Art Cannot Go

Yesterday at a press conference for Dr. Atomic, its outspoken and sometimes provocative director and librettist Peter Sellars suggested that perhaps there are some places that art should not go.

The Emancipation of Judgment

Is the Tate Gallery rejection of a collection of paintings by the Stuckists an example of careful critical evaluation or yet another example of how the arbiters of taste limit audience awareness of artistic possibilities?

Eating My Veggies or Dealing With My Personal Critical Demons

In between my fourth and fifth visits to Footlight Records to pick up, at the lowest cost imaginable, more music that I might potentially dislike, I took a websurfing break to Sequenza21, where, in today’s Composers Forum, Galen H. Brown suggests that young audiences “shopping for a subculture” are not “vulnerable” to an “‘eat your veggies’ approach” to new music which has been the way all of classical music has been marketed in this country from day one.

I too have long believed all that “Mozart makes you smarter” stuff is a turnoff, even though I started eating broccoli with a vengeance upon learning that George H.W. Bush hated it, so go figure…

Among yesterday’s Footlight acquisitions is a record that I could barely get through half of. (Another plus in the vinyl over CD battle is that if you don’t like something, it will end sooner without you having to do anything.) The LP in question is Rosemary Clooney’s Mixed Emotions. I’ve long known that Clooney is an icon among fans of the great standards singers, so for a mere 54 cents (tax included) I figured it was worth the risk. Despite my years as a PR hack, I was also sold by the liner notes (another thing CDs can’t do):

If you happen to be one of the few who have never been exposed to her vocal charms, this is the perfect starter-package. Of course, if you are a Rosemary Clooney fan, we do not have to tell you that this album is a must.

From the first horribly unreal stereo-reprocessed mono distortion (not her fault I know, but still) as soon as I dropped the needle, to the opening words of the very first song, “Bless This House” with its saccharine religiosity, I found myself nearly gagging. But why?

Tons of electronic music I love going back to Stockhausen takes acoustic recordings and distorts them all sorts of ways to great aesthetic effect. And scads of music I cherish, from the Bach cantatas to gospel records by James Cleveland or the Davis Sisters, attempt to incite religious feelings I know I will never have, yet I can still love the music. So, why am I so turned off by this? Why am I allowing myself to let these things get in the way of listening to the mellifluous sound of her voice, which is above all else what her fans are paying attention to? Could it just be a little too close to things I heard growing up that made me turn to classical music and the avant garde in the first place? If that’s the case, might I be listening to my feelings and not to the music? Might that be what happens when most people listen to music they “don’t like”?

I’m heading back over there to buy more records within the hour. Undoubtedly, I’ll pick up even more Rosemary Clooney and hopefully figure it out.